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Chris Engman’s work takes the human condition as its central theme and calls attention to our misperceptions: the gulf that exists between how we see and how we think we see—the inconstant and constructed nature of memory. It is a meditation on impermanence and the fact that not only existence but even the features of the physical world are temporal and will come to an end. Engman’s photographs are documentations of sculptures and installations but they are also records of actions and elaborate processes. 

The tension between illusion and material is exhibited in these works most notably through the various ways in which paper in used to construct images. In Refuge (2016), for example, the image of the wooded scene was printed onto more than 150 pieces of paper and then physically cut and affixed to walls and objects within an architectural space. The room itself was then photographed and the resulting image was printed onto a single sheet of photo paper. In the first phase of installation, the physical properties of paper are acknowledged. With the final photograph (and this applies to most photographs), everything about its presentation is designed to deny that the paper exists at all. What is emphasized is the illusion, or the lie. 

Chris Engman was born 1978 in Seattle, WA. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA Engman received his MFA from USC Roski School of Fine Arts in 2013 and BFA from the University of Washington in 2003. In 2020, Engman will be the subject of solo exhibition at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, CA. Recent exhibitions include the FotoFocus Biennial 2018: Open Archive, Cincinnati, OH; Prospect and Refuge at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; Second Sight: New Representations in Photography, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA; The Claim, High Desert Test Sites, Joshua Tree, CA; Staking Claim: A California Invitational at the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA; and NextNewCA at the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA. Engman's work is held in collections internationally, including Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; Houston Fine Arts Museum, Houston, TX; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA; Sir Elton John Collection, Atlanta, GA; Microsoft Collection, Seattle, WA; the Cleveland Clinic Collection, Google Cloud Collection, as well as numerous corporate and private collections.

Chris Engman Corner Cube, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Corner Cube, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
42 x 48 in.

Chris Engman Disruption, 2014, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Disruption, 2014, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​42 x 42 in.

Chris Engman Paper, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Paper, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​42 x 42 in.

Chris Engman Paper, II, 2014, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Paper, II, 2014, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​42 x 42 in.

Chris Engman Paper, III, 2016, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Paper, III, 2016, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print
42 x 42 in.
 

Chris Engman Paper, IV, 2014, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Paper, IV, 2014, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​42 x 42 in.

Chris Engman Surface, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Surface, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​42 x 42 in.

Chris Engman Passage, 2014, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Passage, 2014, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​41 x 51.25 in.

Chris Engman Recess, 2019, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Recess, 2019, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​42 x 42 in.

Chris Engman Skew, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Skew, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​62 x 49 x 49 x 20 in.

Chris Engman Cinder Blocks, 2017, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Cinder Blocks, 2017, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
​42 x 42 in. each

Chris Engman Double Skew, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman
Double Skew, 2013, ed. of 6, 2 AP
Digital pigment print, frame
55 x 52.5 x 47 x 37.5 in.

In these works,  the image in the print appears as though on a plane with the wall on which the piece is hung.  Thus, the print is integrated with the frame, the frame is integrated with the surrounding space, and the print, the frame, and the surrounding space are all integrated together by the light and by the shadows cast.


The objectness of the material upon which photographic images are printed is brought into focus.  We are used to looking through the surface of photographic prints at the illusion of space that they create.  In this case, the viewer is doing exactly that, and to a heightened degree, while simultaneously looking at an image of a thing that is doing something very different: the paper within the paper is asserting itself as an object of its own right, whose qualities have relevance, whose existence has implications.  An illusion is created and an illusion is shattered.  This is an image that does something images do not usually do: it acknowledges, explicitly, that it is an image.

 

Many of Engman's images seem impossible but are encoded with evidence of their own veracity.  They are truthful in the sense that what is pictured in a final print is what the camera saw on its final shoot; they are “straight.”  They are deceitful, because all photographs are deceitful, but they are truthful in that they tell the truth about their deceit.  One of the aims of his work is to reveal, and then revel in, the deceit of images. 

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